SKI BUNNY: Astra Lodge Refresh at Falls Creek, Australia
The opportunity to refurbish Astra Lodge at Falls Creek in the Australian Alps has come about nearly 30 years after the original construction of the lodge. In the late 1980’s, architect Grant Amon of Grant Amon Architects worked as design and project architect on the 60 bed lodge with Hayball Architects, so it made sense for Grant to be given the brief to completely renovate and extend the lodge.
As well as internal renovations, the project brief also covered external recladding of the existing roof and walls along with new windows and glazed doors to balconies. The lodge has been extended at the rear of the site, enabling the construction of a new dedicated guest entry to a well-appointed ski room, new lift and services providing better access throughout the building. Within the new addition, six new large guest rooms with generous bathrooms and balconies, have been added to complete the refurbishment of this unique ski lodge. Design Travel spoke with Grant, for an insider’s look at the Astra Lodge project.
Were there any unusual challenges to working in a more remote area?
The Astra Lodge project, in the Victorian Alps, 4-5 hours drive from our office in St.Kilda, Melbourne, did present some distance issues for viewing and inspections of the works. However these weren’t significant with email and ease of communication between the builder, client, various consultants and ourselves. We also arranged for frequent site visits during the three construction phases and had continuous consultations and discussions with the building contractors. The documentation drawings and specifications also needed to be very detailed to assist with ease of construction and ensure the build went as smoothly as possible.
Being an alteration and addition to an existing 30 year old building, various issues arose during demolition and construction but these have been dealt with our constant communication process. The build, of course, can only be undertaken in the six month period between October and May when the ski resort is not operating. So the actual refurbishment of the existing lodge, both internal and external, occurred over two years with the final stage of the new addition (studio, ski room, new entry wing) being built during a third phase over 2016-2017. A long gestation!
Did you make any design decisions that were specific to being in a wintery climate?
In terms of the design challenges in an alpine environment, we have issues of extreme temperature fluctuations of the building itself, requiring high insulation, and building waterproofing against snow and wind. Along with this, is the issue of control of snow shedding and dumping off the roof, pedestrian and skier access, heated walkways, stairs and other factors in an alpine village location. We needed to carefully consider the snow shedding issue and a roof profile that enabled safe access to the two main entry points of the building. The skiers entry point needed to be as close to grade as possible, without steps for a ski in ski out and general ease of access. This guest entry also serves well for delivery and accessibility to the new lift servicing all floors.
What should design loving guests look out for while they’re at Astra?
The inclusion of many design and bespoke items throughout the lodge has been a highlight at Astra and fully incorporated into the design of a unique alpine experience. In the main lounge and restaurant, the backlit mountainscape wall feature is a prominent referral to the tones and silhouettes of mountain ranges. Existing concrete support columns have been clad in hide and leather stitching to represent traditional alpine shoe and clothing techniques. Coats hooks have been custom made from shed antler horns, while bespoke metal cut snowflake wall lights wash the rustic cedar timber walls. Another feature is the magnificent chandelier in the main entry foyer, taking inspiration from ice falls, peaks and valleys of the ranges as well as the star formation in reference to Astra. Furniture throughout has been chosen for its beautiful design, comfort and useability for providing a comforting warmth after a day on the slopes.
The Astra refresh represents a contemporary enhancement of the original 1980’s design that aims to rejuvenate the entire lodge to current and future quality expectations. The new owners expressed their desire for ‘the best ski hotel in the country’ and this renovation has definitely inched them closer. By engaging the original architect, complimented by the clients and local builder’s vast alpine knowledge and experience, a fantastic opportunity to rebrand and upgrade the entire building, has emerged. Is a new Astra ‘star’ born? You can book a stay at Astra this ski season at astralodge.com.au and see for yourself.